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414                                                   INDIAN CASTE.
caste to one definite pair of ancestors, is from the circumstances of the case an
impossibility.
With Brahmans and Kshatriyas matters stand some what differently. Though,
so for as any one subordinate division is concerned, it may often happen that its
individual members never at any time formed one family, yet as all, the sub-
divisions are in the main descendants of the early Aryan conquerors, to that
limited extent they have a genuine community of origin. So long as the line of
demarcation which separated them from the aboriginal inhabitants of India re-
mained clearly defined, while the only distinction among themselves lay in the
difference of occupation, the conversion of a Kshatriya into a Brahman would not
be a more unusual occurrence than the retirement of a Christian knight, when
wearied with warfare, into the peaceful seclusion of the cloister. The most
famous exajnple of such a transformation is that supplied by the legend of
Visvamitraj which must ever prove an insuperable difficulty to the orthodox
Hindu, who accepts the Manava doctrine of an essential and eternal difference
between the two castes. At the present day, when Brahmanism has become an
inseparable hereditary quality, the priestly character has been transferred to the
religious mendicants and ascetics who—allowing for the changed circumstances
of time and place—correspond to the Brahrnans of antiquity, and like them freely
admit associates from, every rank and condition of Hindu society. The apparent
difference is mainly due to the fact that in primitive times the Aryan outsi-
ders were all of one status, while now they are infinite in variety.
Theoretically, the essence of the Kshatriya is as incapable of transfer or
acquisition, except by natural descent, as that of the Brahman, but the practice
of the t\vo classes has always been very different.    The strength of a communi-
ty that lays claim to any esoteric knowledge lies in its exclusiveness ; but a
military body thrives by extension, and to secure its own efficiency must be lax
in restrictions.    It may be observed as a singular fact that all the very lowest
castes in the country, if interrogated as to their origin, will say that they are
in some way or another Thakur : and this is illustrated by a passage in Manu,
•where he mentions several outcast tribes as Kshatriyas by descent.    Whence we
, may infer that at all times, there has been a great freedom of intercourse between
that class and others.   Indeed, if we are to accept the legend of Parasuram as
in any sense expressing an-historical event, the whole ThaJkur race has been re-
peatedly extirpated and as often re-formed out of alien elements.    Nor is this at
variance with modern usage, for no Hindu rises to the rank of Raja, whatever
Ms original descent, without acquiring a kind of Thak'ur character, which in
moat instances is unhesitatingly  claimed by, and conceded to, his descendants